Originating in the Baltic nation of Estonia, the Tori Horse, or Toric, has developed through selective breeding into a sturdy, practical all-rounder that is easy to keep. Because they are rare outside their homeland, deciding to buy a Tori is an unusual choice. However, their proven abilities in harness will appeal to many purchasers looking for strength and docility in a compact-sized horse. The most likely people to sell a Tori are specialists, including the principal studs in Estonia itself. Today, Estonians are justifiably proud of the breed they have produced, and it is part of the national heritage that draws visitors to the country. The modern Tori is becoming more of a sporty all-round horse, though devotees of the traditional or 'old' Tori are very keen to ensure its survival.
Use and characteristics of the Tori Horse
The Tori Horse is primarily a light draught and harness horse that has always been popular as a farm horse in Estonia and the surrounding countries. Handsome, strong and gentle, Tori horses get their draught horse power from their muscular necks, which develop into a strong crest in stallions of the breed. It was accepted practise in parts of Ukraine, Russia and other nearby countries to buy a Tori Horse stallion to improve the local stock. Their legs are clean and fine, giving them an elegant appearance along with their strength, and their gaits are smooth and active. They are in fact stunningly attractive horses with rich coats of chestnut or dark brown, often with lighter coloured manes and tails for contrast. The breed varies from 15 hands high (60 inches/152 cm) to 15.2 hands high (62 inches/157cm), with some stallions reaching 16 hands high (64 inches/162 cm).
Origin and history of breeding Tori Horses
The foundation stock of the Tori horse came from mares of the small native breed of the region, known as Eesti hobune, meaning Estonian horses. They were familiarly known as “Kleppers”, which simply means nags, but the special quality of these Estonian natives was the immense strength for their size. They were very easy to keep, too, and it was generally believed they could be the descendants of pony-sized equines that had lived in the region since the Bronze Age. They were very fertile, and also prepotent – they had the power to transmit their own qualities on to their offspring more potently than the horses with which they were bred. In medieval times, the horses of Estonia were praised by writers and exported throughout the region to be used for draught work. From the late 1800s until 1950, a programme was in place to create a useful Estonian breed for general work. The foundation stallion was Hetman, whose name is listed from 1866 onwards many times in the stud book. His ancestry was Norfolk Roadster, Hunter, and Anglo-Norman. He and his sons were all extremely influential on the breed, focussing on the main Estonian stud at Tori, Pärnumaa. When inbreeding began to cause issues in the 1930s, Breton stallions were introduced into the programme. Later, Hanoverian, Trakhener and Holstein stallions were used to create a more sports-type horse.
Tori Horses in equestrianism
Tori horses were huge favourites in the days of the Soviet Union. A Tori mare was made supreme draught horse champion of the USSR in the early 1960s. The modern Tori is an athletic horse with good jumping ability. Although few members of the “old Tori Horse” survive, an effort is being made to preserve the excellent gaits and other qualities for which they were famous.